5 Highlights From Boston's City Council Hearing for Police Body Cameras
Below are highlights from the August 4th, 2016 council hearing.
Police Commissioner Evans originally said he'd start the Boston Police Department body camera pilot program on July 1, 2016. It still hasn't been implemented. He says it "might" be ready by September 1, 2016. He said that the reason for the hold-up was negotiations with unions. Councilor Tito Jackson quoted Martin Luther King Junior, "Justice too long delayed is justice denied."
Voluntary and optional nature
Instead of implementing the program across the board, Evans is only asking for 100 volunteers from the entire city's police department. These volunteers will be compensated $500. Despite the concerns from activists and residents about the voluntary nature of the program, Evans won't budge on this. As of right now, Evans does not anticipate that there will be 100 volunteers by September 1, 2016. He admits that it's a "hard sell" to get police officers to volunteer to use body cameras. This is exactly why the pilot program shouldn't have been voluntary to begin with. When asked what he will do if he doesn't get 100 volunteers by September 1, he said that he would have to assign certain districts to wear the cameras.
As of right now, the policy put forth by BPD allows the police officers to view their footage before writing a report. Several activists and residents expressed BIG concerns about the potential for video tampering and editing if officers had the opportunity to look at the videos first.
LACK OF CONSEQUENCES
BPD's policy does not include ANY consequences for officers who turn their cameras off during "minor" incidences. The policy didn't elaborate on what's considered a minor offense, and Evans wouldn't either. This is perhaps the biggest difference between the Boston Police Camera Action Team's policy and BPD's. Our policy included extensive consequences for police officers who turned off their cameras. BPCAT's agenda is not only to implement a body camera program, but to put in place concrete consequences for police officers who turn them off.
BPD's policy does not set up a metric for how they will determine if the pilot program was a success. Instead, they are going to have two Northeastern professors analyze the data after 6 months. Councilor Ayanna Pressley mentioned that instead of having just the professors decide whether the program is successful, there should be crucial community involvement. The community needs to be a part of the conversation about whether the pilot program was a success.